Balochistan has for long been in the crosshairs of history. In the 17th century, the British, largely for geographical, administrative and security reasons, divided the Baloch land between the British Empire of India and the Persian Empire to the West, with a small number in the deserts of Afghanistan to the North. The Goldsmid line gave away almost a quarter of Baloch territory to Iran in 1871 and the Durand line assigned a narrow strip to Afghanistan in 1893. The British further divided the Baloch areas under their influence into three parts. These became British Balochistan, the state of Kalat and its vassals, viz., Lasbela, Kharan and Makran and the tribal areas. Today, about 60 per cent of the Baloch live in Balochistan and around 25 per cent inhabit the Sistan and Baluchestan Province of Iran.
On 15 August 1947, Kalat reverted to its pre-1876 status and became an independent state. The rulers of Kharan and Lasbela were informed by the British that they had been placed under the suzerainty of the Khan. Control over the Marri and Bugti regions were also reverted to the Khan, thereby bringing the entire Baloch areas of British India under the direct or indirect control of Mir Ahmad Yar, the Khan of Kalat. But this independence was short-lived and Pakistan forced a merger of Balochistan with Pakistan on 31 March 1948. Thus began the protracted struggle of the Baloch people against Pakistani oppression. And that struggle against a brutal Pakistani regime continues till date. Just recently, a young Baloch activist, Karima Baloch, who had taken up exile in Canada, was found dead, presumably murdered by the ISI.
In this very informative book, Sandhya Jain, who has been a journalist for over three decades and who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, has examined the vexed issue of Balochistan in its multiple dimensions. Beginning with a chapter on the historical background of the region till its annexation by Pakistan, the author delves then on the Baloch identity, its people and its customs. The long drawn out fight for freedom from oppression and economic exploitation has also been covered in detail, starkly bringing out the contours of the current conflict. This is juxtaposed into the current geo-political realities wherein China is trying to gain access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea through its flagship programme, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which has added a further twist to the sufferings of the Baloch people as CPEC passes through Balochistan and terminates at Gwadar.
This book is a comprehensive study of Balochistan which makes compelling reading. It would be of benefit to the lay reader as well as to all those who deal with defence and national security issues and international relations.
Maj Gen Dhruv C. Katoch, SM, VSM, is a veteran
Salute to the Indian Soldier, p. 38